Savannah River Site cancer compensation briefing draws hopeful crowd

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Cold War veterans and their survivors packed a meeting room Tuesday to explore new compensation opportunities for cancers linked to jobs at Savannah River Site.

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Former SRS workers and their survivors attended a meeting Tuesday on new compensation opportunities for cancers linked to jobs at the site. The program has already paid out $502 million to more than 3,800 workers.  JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
Former SRS workers and their survivors attended a meeting Tuesday on new compensation opportunities for cancers linked to jobs at the site. The program has already paid out $502 million to more than 3,800 workers.

The program has already paid out $502 million to more than 3,800 SRS workers diagnosed with one or more of 22 cancers related to radiation exposure, said Rachel Leiton, the director of the U.S. Labor Department’s Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation.

However, a new category for former SRS workers employed for at least 250 days between Jan. 1, 1953, and Sept. 30, 1972, will make about 800 previously rejected claims eligible for reconsideration for lump-sum payments of $150,000 or benefit combinations worth even more.

Previous claims need not be re-filed, Leiton told about 250 people during a town hall meeting at the Augusta Mariott at the Convention Center. “If it looks like it might be eligible for this class, we’ll go ahead and reopen that case for you.”

Under the new “special exposure cohort” class for the site, a dose reconstruction study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is no longer required.

Such analyses often took two years or more, and now those cases can be resolved in six months or less. Many workers with authenticated diagnoses can quickly be given a “presumption of causation,” making it easier to collect compensation.

The changes were welcome news for some former SRS workers.

“I have three kinds of cancer and I’ve been turned down three times,” said one former employee, who spoke at the meeting but would not provide her name. “I worked there 28 years, got uterine cancer in ’94 and breast cancer in ’87.”

In 2000, she was diagnosed with a type of lymphoma.

“We’re the ones who need help,” she said from her oxygen-equipped wheelchair.

Although most attendees had filed previous claims, the meeting also attracted some first-time inquiries.

Julie Poole was just 9 years old when she lost her father, nuclear physicist Lovell D. Tice, to a rare type of lymphoma.

“We used to ask him what he did out there and he’d tell us, ‘it’s secret,’ ” the Columbia woman said. “He was only 42 when he died.”

She was among dozens of visitors who met privately with Labor Department staff members to evaluate records and seek guidance on how to file or check on claims.

Because records from so long ago are often missing or incomplete, program officials are available to help track down information, Leiton said.

“We try to ensure that we find as many of those records as we can,” she said. Sources sometimes extend beyond the Department of Energy and can include records from labor unions, contractor corporations – even personal affidavits.

“One of the most important things is to provide medical evidence,” she said. “Confirming the diagnosis is one of the most important things to be done.”

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REDRIDER 04/18/12 - 11:42 am
How about tritium in the

How about tritium in the ground water. Why don't they pay for all people with cancer and family that have lost family members to these kinds of cancer linked to DOE's projects in the area.

Joanne H
Joanne H 08/20/13 - 11:46 am
Savannah River Plant

I understand employees of the Savannah River Plant and their families being compensated. That's not going to get any argument from me! But what about residents of the surrounding area who have developed and/or died from unusual cancers or multiple different cancers? My husband lived in Denmark and has recently completed treatment for his THIRD cancer! Both of his parents died of cancer. Is there any assistance offered for people like this?

Seriously, I wish someone would take a look at the people born during the early 40s or who lived in Denmark, SC during the period of the building of the Savannah River Plant and for the first several years of operation!

montez600 02/02/16 - 04:22 pm
My Mom Died from Cancer

My mom developed cancer in 2010, after working at The Savannah River Plant for 22 years. Cancer doesn't run in my family, my mother was the only one out of 10 siblings that developed the disease. My mother had a rare cancer that doctors can't get rid of and it was a very aggressive cancer. I tried to obtain compensation after her dead, and she tried to receive compensation before her death. I was denied due to the years that she worked there, which began in the early eighties. They told me her job title didn't exposure her to radiation. However, my mother worked what they called a swing shift as well, where she came into contact with very old records and had to wear a radiation badge as well as gloves and a mask. If she wasn't being exposure to radiation why the protective wear? I was told that the levels she was exposed to, wasn't enough for her to qualify for compensation. I was told it had to be 50% or higher. What? I know that my mom contracted cancer due to the radiation at this plant. It was rare and no one in my family ever had such an illness. within 4 years it killed her and it was a painful long death for her.

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